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I'm not sure how often this blog will be updated, however I'd like to use this space to provide some updates on my involvement in the EAA Chapter 245 (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) "Gift of Wings" build project.
Some background info... In 2015, EAA announced a plan to provide to qualifying EAA Chapters a set of wings, a Gift of Wings, to encourage the chapter to build an aircraft and subsequently use that aircraft to promote aviation. What a great idea!
EAA Chapter 245 is one of the lucky Gift of Wings recipients. Having selected the Zenith CH750 Cruzer as the aircraft we'd like to build, we looked forward to AirVenture 2015 where the wings would be built by AirVenture attendees. Many Chapter 245 members were on hand to assist in the wing building process. At the end of AirVenture 2015 the wings were completed, and covered in signatures from the many, many volunteers who had pulled a rivet or two to transform a pile of aluminum parts into a pair of finished wings.
Fast forward a few months... Now Chapter 245 has scrounged together the cash to purchase the rest of the CH750 kit and finally the day arrives when two tired chapter members pull up to the hangar after making the long road trip to pick up the kit. The kit is inventoried. Chapter members entering the hangar were able to see all the parts spread out on tables. There are a lot of parts... and a lot of holes where rivets and bolts will be placed. Clearly this is a large undertaking.
This past weekend was our first "big push" in constructing the aircraft. We have benefitted from terrific support from the Zenith factory. A huge thanks goes out to Matt Heintz for spending the weekend with us, providing an excellent training/briefing session, then looking over our shoulders to ensure we got started on the right foot.
With over 20 chapter members on hand, we did indeed get off to a good start. At the age of 15, our youngest builder this weekend burns with youthful enthusiasm and desire to learn. At 88 years of age, our oldest builder shows no less enthusiasm and excitement about the project, and adds a heaping helping of experience and wisdom. The atmosphere in the hangar carries a wonderful blend of warm camaraderie, determination, good humour and teamwork. The place is positively a-buzz with activity and energy!
By the close of Saturday we've listened intently to Matt's sage teachings, completed the practice kits so generously provided by Zenith, and begun working on the sub-assemblies. The team I'm working with has started the firewall, while another team has the LONG fuselage sides to prepare. Yet another team has undertaken the task of assembling the lower fuselage. As the drills fall silent we can see the skeleton of this bird beginning to rise from the pile of parts.
Sunday saw us once again assembled en masse, tools in hand, eager to make more progress. The energy in the hangar was palpable, the sense of enthusiasm infectious. Between the howl of air drills the laughter continued unabated. Our chapter president is a dyed-in-the-wool composite builder, having recently completed a many-year build project creating his Cozy Mk IV. It's a good thing he has broad shoulders as he was the butt of many jokes and comments about his skills in working with an all-metal aircraft. We had many good laughs and, thanks to Matt Heintz spending another few hours with us to help us through the thorniest parts, no assembly mistakes were made.
We came to a rather momentous point late Sunday afternoon - we were ready to perform the first test-fit of two major sub-assemblies, the firewall and lower fuselage. After adjusting the length of one of the fuselage longerons we slid the firewall into place. When the clecos were in place it became clear we had made huge progress - the firewall fit the lower fuselage perfectly. This thing is really coming together!
The weather outside the hangar was miserable, with heavy rain being driven by a strong east wind. Old Man Winter couldn't dampen our spirits. With warm smiles and congratulations all around the EAA Chapter 245 build team parted ways. We're looking forward to another session of building next weekend!